Anti-Israeli Protesters Removed after Storming Russia’s Dagestan Airport

REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
An aerial view of the Dagestan capital of Makhachkala March 24, 2012.

Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters on Sunday stormed Russia’s Dagestan airport in Makhachkala where a plane from Israel had just arrived, forcing Russian security forces to close the airport and divert flights while removing the demonstrators.

About 20 were injured, including two in critical condition said local health authorities. Makhachkala is one of several areas in the north Caucasus region that are home to large Muslim communities.

Video obtained by Reuters showed mostly young men waving Palestine flags, breaking down glass doors and running through the airport shouting “Allahu Akbar” or “God is Greatest.” Another group outside rocked a white truck with the initials of a patrol service on it in Russian.

Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsia security forces had removed the group by 10:20 p.m. Moscow time (1920 GMT). The passengers on the plane were “in a safe place,” security forces told Reuters.

Over the past day, a Jewish center under construction in Nalchik, the capital of the nearby Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, was also set on fire, local emergency officials said.

Rosaviatsia said the airport would remain closed until Nov. 6. Russia’s Investigative Committee ordered a criminal probe into the incident.

Israel urged Russian authorities to protect Israelis and Jews in their jurisdictions following the report

A statement by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said the Israeli ambassador in Moscow was working with Russian authorities. “The State of Israel views gravely attempts to harm Israelis citizens and Jews anywhere,” the statement said.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was appalled by the events in Dagestan, blaming the events on Russia’s official messages about Israel.

“This is not an isolated incident in Makhachkala, but rather part of Russia’s widespread culture of hatred toward other nations, which is propagated by state television, pundits, and authorities,” he said.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Social media footage showed some protesters attempting to approach the aircraft, but the passengers remained safely on board.

The identification number on the tail of the plane indicated it had arrived from Israel, according to the FlightRadar24 flight tracking website.

Regional leaders in Dagestan and in two other areas of the northern Caucasus called for calm. A similar appeal was issued by Dagestan’s chief mufti.

Russia has tried to maintain contact with all sides in the conflict pitting Israel against Hamas but angered Israeli authorities by inviting a Hamas delegation to Moscow. Israel’s foreign ministry summoned the Russian ambassador on Sunday.